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FLOC’s Velásquez elected to AFL-CIO Executive Council


Pittsburgh PA, Sept. 17, 2009: The 700-plus delegates at the national AFL-CIO Convention unanimously elected former farmworker and president of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) to their Executive Council yesterday, which also happened to be Mexican Independence Day.


Velásquez ran on Richard Trumka’s slate. Trumka, former Secretary Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, was elected as the new president of the AFL-CIO, following John Sweeney who retired. Arlene Holt Baker and Liz Shuler were elected as executive vice-president and secretary-treasurer respectively. 


This was the culmination of a convention, with delegates voting on resolutions that impact workers all over the country, including workers rights to form unions and the Employee Free Choice Act, health care, building a green jobs economy, organizing and political mobilization, developing the next generation of union leaders, and safe jobs for all.  


President Barak Obama, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Caroline Kennedy, and others were among the speakers at the convention.


Velásquez introduced the resolution in support of FLOC’s campaign to organize tobacco farmworkers in the South, who pick tobacco on farms that are contracted by R. J. Reynolds, the second largest manufacturer of cigarettes in the United States. Reynolds CEO Susan Ivey has refused to meet with FLOC to discuss the conditions of tobacco farmworkers on Reynolds contract farms.


According to Velásquez, though Reynolds does not directly employ the tobacco farmworkers, Reynolds can ensure that they are treated justly. 


FLOC also presented a resolution for continued support of the labor movement for its campaign to bring the murderers of its organizer Santiago Rafaél Cruz to justice. Cruz was murdered in Monterrey, México on April 9, 2007.  One of the killers is in prison while others are still free. Both resolutions passed unanimously. 


Velásquez spoke vigorously in support of the labor movement’s principles for comprehensive immigration reform, a relevant issue for farmworkers and U.S. agriculture. A convention resolution supporting comprehensive immigration reform passed unanimously.


“I am very excited about the new direction of the labor movement,” says Velásquez. “It is an honor for me to join my brothers and sisters from other unions to lead the labor movement.


“With this election, farmworkers have a voice and a vote in the AFL-CIO Executive Council. A very important door is now open in the labor movement for addressing the condition of farmworkers in the fields.”


Editor’s Note: Baldemar Velásquez was born in Pharr, Texas in 1947.  He began migrant farmwork at the age of 6, living in converted barns and chicken coops with his family.  He co-founded FLOC in 1967— the first union in the United States to negotiate multi-party collective bargaining agreements, and the first in the country to represent H2A guestworkers under a labor agreement.  Under his leadership, FLOC became an organization of national and international relevance.


In addition to the B.A. he earned in Sociology from Bluffton College, Baldemar’s work with FLOC has earned him honorary PhDs from the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University.  He has been awarded the MacArthur Genius award, the national Hispanic Heritage award, and Mexico’s Aguila Azteca award, the highest award given to a non- citizen.  Baldemar is also an ordained minister.  He is married and has 4 children.





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